The Auburn Tigers football team didn’t know what losing felt like.
Seventeen games in a row they had emerged victorious. On game 18, the Tigers faced their toughest test yet.
Down in Gainesville, Florida, the unbeaten No. 1 Florida Gators stood in the way in 1994.
Head coach Terry Bowden needed big-time plays from his big-time players against a well-coached Steve Spurrier team. Auburn quarterback Patrick Nix and wide receiver Frank Sanders heard the message loud and clear.
“Nix to Sanders” Game-Winning TD vs. Florida
Florida held a 29-33 lead late in the fourth quarter.
The Auburn offense got the ball back, and the crowd at The Swamp made sure their presence was known.
Nix, the father of current Auburn starting QB Bo Nix, sliced and diced the Florida defense down the field.
The Tigers were able to advance to UF’s 8-yard line with 36 seconds left. Florida coach Steve Spurrier was shaking in his boots. Could his defense hold up?
Nix took the shotgun snap, dropped back and threw a pass to a crossing Sanders. Sanders jumped to snag the ball out of the air in the end zone.
Up 36-33 with 30 seconds remaining, the heroic score left Florida fans stunned.
They couldn’t afford to drop this matchup if they had any hopes of reaching the NCAA National Championship Game.
Alas, Auburn prevailed and extended the program’s winning streak to 18 games.
Former athletic director David Housel, who was watching from the press box, expressed his thoughts on the game-winning play to oanow.com:
“I’m going to tell you what, 25 years from now — 50 years since that play, that game — it’s still going to live in the hearts and minds in Auburn people, and they’re going to remember where they were and what they did and how it felt when that play happened and Auburn won that game.”
Nix’s third touchdown pass of the day was by far his most crucial, and it was to none other than one of the greatest wideouts to do it at Auburn.
Being prevented a shot at a national title is something no program wants to deal with. Ruining a conference foe’s chances isn’t a bad consolation.